The American Space Development Agency (SDA) has placed orders for 10 satellites with two manufacturers. This is in aid of its “Transport Layer” initiative which aims to develop a constellation providing low-latency, global, military data connectivity. The two companies are Lockheed Martin (contract value US$187.5 million) and new entrant York Space (contract value US$94 million).
These 20 satellites form the SDA’s Tranche 0, and it is hoped that they all will be launched by September 2022. The SDA has stated that it intends to be “vendor neutral” for future Tranches. The full constellation is envisaged as consisting of 300-500 satellites, inhabiting orbits between 750-1,200 km.
Of the 10 satellites being built by each of the suppliers, there are reportedly two variants. Seven of the units will carry four optical communications payloads for inter-satellite linking, and the remaining three will have two optical payloads and to R/F downlink payloads. The radio-frequency component of the system is planned to operate in Ka-band.
Update on 02/09/2020: Lockheed Martin has revealed that its bid for the SDA contract is in partnership with Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and Telesat. The satellites will reportedly be between 150-200 kg, and are to be based on Tyvak’s “Mavericks” satellite bus. The Telesat contribution is described as a “technical advisor”.